Monday, May 13, 2019

May 13th Links

  • One shareholder asked if Steak n Shake would introduce "vegan hamburgers." Another questioner asked for applause for the company's management, a request which was greeted with awkward silence. One shareholder was displaying a copy of John Carreyrou's Theranos book "Bad Blood" and was asking if people thought Biglari Holdings' board was like Theranos' board and if Sardar Biglari was like Elizabeth Holmes (and another shareholder then referenced this in a question). My perception of Sardar Biglari's attitude towards Biglari Holdings shareholders reminded me of John Updike's great line about Ted Williams refusing to respond with a hat-tip to the pleading ovation of Red Sox fans after Williams' home run in the last at-bat of his career: "Gods don't answer letters." [Seeking Alpha]
  • You attain the Tao by avoiding all grains. You will never again have to follow the rhythm of the moon and plant or harvest. Now, the people of mysterious antiquity, they reached old age because they remained in leisure and never ate any grains. As the Dayou zhang (Verse of Great Existence) says: "The five grains are chisels cutting life away, making the five organs stink and shorten our spans. Once entered into our stomach, there's no more chance to live quite long." [Wiki]
  • In the San Fernando Valley, for instance, you can tell the neighborhoods where the ex-Soviet Armenian newcomers are pushing out the old Chicanos because the Armenians disdain the Mexicans' glass shards and instead invest in elaborate iron fences with lethal finials to impale intruders. [Sailer]
  • They are firm believers in walls and fences! It was controversial when some razor wire was rolled out on the US border, but I have never seen so much razor wire as down there in my life. Houses and apartment buildings in the best neighborhoods will have 10 foot tall fences topped with spikes and the spikes will be crowned with razor wire. Sometimes above the razor wire there are four or five strands of electric fencing too. Schools and government buildings are fortified with fences like this, and sometimes sandbags in front, the way military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq are set up. Everywhere the buildings present a totally armored face to the street. [CBS]
  • "Grand Canyon is remarkable not for its bigness but for its smallness. The Grand Wash trough just below the GC is much bigger in terms of sheer volume removed by erosion, but it is nowhere near as impressive to look at because it's too big. And for real size, consider what the Mississippi River has done. It has eroded a volume of material that would fill the GC many times over. Yet no one stands in Denver and looks out to the east thinking what an amazing erosional feat has been performed between the Rockies and the Appalachians. [...] Canyons, as opposed to valleys or larger landforms, are created by a tension between erosion and the lack of erosion. They are features of arid regions, where a river or stream works at the bottom, but there isn't enough erosion to widen the sides. This is best illustrated by slot canyons, where walls actually overhang and in places block one's view of the sky." [CBS]
  • You might also be wondering which non-alien phenomena might be accounting for these strange observations. Wouldn’t it be interesting, for instance, if a foreign power were tracking our military missions with a new secret weapon? Or if the eyewitness reports of our service members were so unreliable and in such systematic ways? [Cowen]
  • People hate paying for shipping. They despise it. It may sound banal, even self-evident, but understanding that was, I'm convinced, so critical to much of how we unlocked growth at Amazon over the years. People don't just hate paying for shipping, they hate it to literally an irrational degree. We know this because our first attempt to address this was to show, in the shopping cart and checkout process, that even after paying shipping, customers were saving money over driving to their local bookstore to buy a book because, at the time, most Amazon customers did not have to pay sales tax. That wasn't even factoring in the cost of getting to the store, the depreciation costs on the car, and the value of their time. People didn't care about this rational math. People, in general, are terrible at valuing their time, perhaps because for most people monetary compensation for one's time is so detached from the event of spending one's time. [Less Wrong]
  • It sure looks like the Industrial Revolution was a big deal. But Paul Christiano argues your eyes may be deceiving you. That graph is a hyperbola, ie corresponds to a single simple equation. There is no break in the pattern at any point. If you transformed it to a log doubling time graph, you'd just get the graph above that looks like a straight line until 1960. On this view, the Industiral Revolution didn't change historical GDP trends. It just shifted the world from a Malthusian regime where economic growth increased the population to a modern regime where economic growth increased per capita income. For the entire history of the world until 1000, GDP per capita was the same for everyone everywhere during all historical eras. An Israelite shepherd would have had about as much stuff as a Roman farmer or a medieval serf. [SSC]
  • My memories of Zaragoza, Spain, remain very strong. It's the 5th largest city in Spain (650K people according to Wikipedia) but so compact you can easily walk from the city centre to the edge of town. And when you reach the edge of town it just stops. Literally one side of the road is seven storey apartment buildings and the other side is just countryside. Who needs suburbia when you can have that? [Marginal Revolution]
  • Caro himself says he was influenced by the 'small is beautiful' movement in city planning when he wrote the book, and upon later reflection was a bit unfair to Moses. [Marginal Revolution]
  • Robert Caro's biography of Moses, The Power Broker, gives only passing mention to this event, despite Jacobs's strong influence on Caro. In 2017, Caro told an interviewer about the difficulty in cutting more than 300,000 words from his initial manuscript: "The section that I wrote on Jane Jacobs disappeared. To this day, when someone says: "There's hardly a mention of Jane Jacobs," I think, "but I wrote a lot about her." Every time I'm asked about that, I have this sick feeling." [Wiki]
  • We look at an international universe of stocks beginning with the first month of 1990 until December 2011; we compute the volatility of total return for each company in each country over the previous 24 months. Stocks in each country are ranked by volatility and formed into deciles. In the total universe and in each individual country low risk stocks outperform, the relationship with respect to Sharpe ratios is even more impressive. We believe this anomaly is caused primarily by agency issues, namely the compensation structures and internal stock selection processes at asset management firms which lead institutional investors on average to hold more volatile stocks. The article also addresses the implications for how corporate finance managers make capital investment decision in light of this evidence. The evidence presented here dethrones both CAPM and the Efficient Market Hypothesis. [SSRN]
  • I've been fascinated recently by the longevity of men with high-status, intellectually stimulating jobs. Charles Munger (still doing Q&A in public at 91), Judge Robert Patterson (who died last week, at 91). I'm sure it didn't hurt Armen Alchian that he lived in LA and had a flexible schedule for golfing. [CBS]
  • BIG's proposal for protecting New York is really a proposal to protect the most valuable real estate in lower Manhattan. The rest of the city that's vulnerable to floods is evidently out of luck. That includes half of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and big chunks of New Jersey. If the Dry Line actually gets built does the entire region chip in to pay to save the wealthiest inhabitants of the city? Does the city create a special parcel tax for just the properties served by the Dry Line? Or does the city build the cappuccino versions in some places and plain concrete walls and sand bags in others? Anyone want to guess how things turn out in the South Bronx? [Granola Shotgun]
  • DJT’s fortune has always been highly leveraged long commercial real estate, like a stubborn ass. Characters in the biz like Sam Zell repeatedly got in and out of the same trades over the relevant time period to better profit. [Phil G]
  • Testosterone treatment was initiated in 398 men during routine clinical care. The mortality in testosterone-treated men was 10.3% compared with 20.7% in untreated men with a mortality rate of 3.4 deaths per 100 person-years for testosterone-treated men and 5.7 deaths per 100 person-years in men not treated with testosterone. After multivariable adjustment including age, body mass index, testosterone level, medical morbidity, diabetes, and coronary heart disease, testosterone treatment was associated with decreased risk of death (hazard ratio 0.61; 95% confidence interval 0.42–0.88; P = 0.008). [JCEM]
  • Although several population studies have reported an association of increased mortality with low testosterone, the effect of TRT has not been studied. When we reviewed those patients who received TRT for 1 year or longer, we found a beneficial effect improving survival in men with hypogonadism. The data showed that the survival curve followed a similar course to that of the normal testosterone group, whereas the untreated group had a worse prognosis. It is important to note that all patients treated with testosterone had careful adjustment of testosterone to achieve levels within the mid to upper normal range for healthy men. This is the first time any study on men with type 2 diabetes has shown that TRT may improve long-term survival outcome. [EJE]

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